Keen. How did a brand making such unattractive shoes become so popular? Well, it turns out this company's shoes are also insanely comfortable. Testers liked the fit of the Whisper's stretch mesh upper and its contoured footbed. It's easy to adjust and has a slimmer profile than the other Keen sandal we tested, the Keen Newport H2 - Women's. This slimmer construction also made this shoe more appropriate for narrow foot types.
The Whisper has a slimmer profile than the Newport. It has super stretchy webbing and a cinch tab that tightens the sandal uniformly throughout the foot.
The footbed of the Whisper was universally comfortable. The Compression Molded EVA (or CMEVA) midsole of this sandal is flexible and lightweight and provides just the right level of cushioning and support for all-day wear. Theoretically, CMEVA is supposed to last longer than regular EVA, as its additional compression element adds more integrity to the foam material. In terms of the webbing of the sandal, which is made of a synthetic mesh, testers loved the fact that it dried so much faster than the webbing on the Newport, but found that overall this shoe caused more chafing and hot spots than the Newport. The rigid seams on the interior ankle rubbed some testers the wrong way and extended wear-time tended to reveal the downside of its narrow toe box: even more chafing.
This sandal fits true to size in length (and comes in half sizes) but is relatively narrow in the toe box. Wide feet might want to consider ordering up a half size or, better yet, checking out the Keen Newport H2.
We were surprised to discover that despite being made from the same material, the traction of the Whisper was much less sticky than that of the Newport. What was significantly different between both of the soles was the pattern of the tread. The Whisper had a much less aggressive lug pattern on the forefoot of the sandal, the point of contact that is most important on the sole of a shoe. In the end, we rated the Whisper the lowest of any of the sandals we tested in our traction metric.
A side-by-side view of the tread of the Keen Whisper (top) and the Newport H2 (bottom). Testers were surprised by how much better the traction was on the Newport since the soles of both are made from the same material.
This shoe felt more stable than all of the open-toed models we tested, except for the Teva Tirra. The features that contribute to its stability are its well-designed footbed that contours the shape of the foot and provides moderate support through the arch. Its close-toed construction also makes the sandal much more stable, not to mentioned protective, on steep or adventurous terrain. Our one hang-up with the Whisper (which made us give the Newport a higher stability score) was the stretchiness of its webbing. It was so stretchy that testers felt as if their heels were going to slide off the back of the sandal while hiking uphill or on steep surfaces. This was not a comfortable feeling.
We have acknowledged the subjectiveness of the style criteria, yet the consensus of the testers was that the Whisper was not attractive. Despite looking like some sort of futuristic hiking shoe, it doesn't seem to keep these shoes off of people's feet. That said, it has plenty of other redeeming qualities and comes in a variety of color options.
The Whisper was super simple to adjust. Just pull one tab, and you get a customized fit. We never noticed the pull tab losing purchase and it pulled equal tension throughout all of the straps with ease. Where this sandal lost points in adjustability had nothing to due with its adjustment system, but more to do with its webbing material, which could not be adjusted. The flaw with the webbing was that it was so stretchy testers found their heels sliding off the back of the shoe and unfortunately, the lace system did not accommodate for this.
Seeing as the Whisper was designed as a water specific shoe, we were disappointed to find that its water resistance qualities were just OK. It felt safer than a flip-flop on wet terrain, but its traction was not very good and was significantly worse than the Newport's. It took an hour for the shoe to dry out completely. This is much faster than the Newport, but slow enough that testers complained of its clamminess all the while.
Evaluating the dry time of the Keen Whisper, and the rest of the contents of a tester's tent, after a 24hr rainstorm.
This shoe is great for extended wear on easy terrain and would be an excellent travel shoe. However, its poor tread and heel slippage problem make us reluctant to recommend it as a good piece of hiking footwear or for regular water use.
The $90 price tag of the Whisper is reasonable, however, testers found that for $10 more they would prefer to either upgrade to the Newport or buy the Editors' Choice Teva Tirra, which is $10 cheaper. In the end, we would recommend either of these better value options.
We liked the Whisper but felt that its few flaws resulted in it being out-performed by its competitors. In terms of close-toed models, we preferred the Keen Newport, which won our Top Pick for Adventure Travel. When considering price, comfort, style, and water performance, we preferred the Teva Tirra.
The Keen Whisper, left, has a narrower footbed than the Keen Newport, right.